A half-century milestone celebrated for Sloop Clearwater

Sloop Clearwater

BEACON – A century and a half ago, sloops were commonplace among many types of boats on the Hudson River.  Typically, a sloop would last about five years.

Clearwater’s Executive Director Greg Williams, rear and Education Director Erik Hyte watch as Hyte’s young son ceremonially pours Hudson River water over the side

Time and technology have changed. The Sloop Clearwater, its crew and supporters, marked the 50th anniversary of its launch Friday afternoon at the Beacon Dock.

Beacon Mayor Randy Casale said it was the most appropriate place for the party.

“We were the home of Pete Seeger who really started the Clearwater and he also was a big proponent of Sloop Club which is an arm of the Clearwater which has been here in Beacon for 50 years, too, promoting environmental issues and keeping the river clean,” Casale said.  “And it educates our kids; gives them a chance to go out on a boat and learn about the river.”

A class of about 40 kids from a school in Connecticut got off the Clearwater following an afternoon educational sail. 

Former Clearwater Captain Betsy Garthwaite said in song, Seeger made the mission clear.

“So what is real inspiration for this vessel, which is the river,” Garthwaite asked.  “Pete was out sailing on other boats.  He was inspired by the river, as ugly as it was, to write such a beautiful song.  And I think it’s that kind of inspiration, that kind of quixotic optimism that allowed this boat to be built and launched.” 

Hudson River Sloop Clearwater Executive Director Greg Williams said that optimism lives on.

“The mission remains to protect and clean up the Hudson River as a symbol for water and the environment everywhere.   So whereas early in our history we identified the threat posed to the river by PCBs being dumped by General Electric, 50 years later we are now still working to get them appropriately remediated.”  Williams said that conceivably could take another half-century. 

Williams said it may take another 50 years to complete that mission The birthday party included a ceremonial pouring of water, taken from three points on the Hudson, back into the river.  The party began and ended with Seeger’s Songs.

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